As the weather starts to cool down, I love spending sunny, fall days outside. Going for a hike in the woods, tailgating at a football game, or going apple picking at a farm are just a few of the ways I like to spend time in the fresh air before the weather turns. When planning these outings, I always make sure to pack a cooler bag with lots of delicious foods. Packing your own lunch can make an outing last longer. With the right planning, you can avoid fast food or other unhealthy choices and create a memorable picnic! Here are a few tips to get you started:
Packaged hummus is delicious and a great way to add protein and fiber to your diet. If you own a food processor, blending your own takes only minutes and you can customize it to your liking.
Simply blend one can of drained chickpeas, the juice of half a lemon, two tablespoons of tahini paste, a quarter teaspoon ground cumin, and a pinch of salt. With the motor running on the food processor, drizzle in three tablespoons of good quality olive oil or grapeseed oil. Taste and adjust seasoning to your liking. I like to bring along cut-up carrots, snap peas, and whole-wheat pita chips to make it into a meal.
Sweeten plain Greek yogurt with some good quality maple syrup. Pack it into pint containers with cut-up strawberries and blueberries. Don’t forget to pack the spoons!
Bring some apples along in your cooler bag. The wide variety of sweet and crunchy apples available in the fall make a great snack, and hold up really well. I like to pack a small cutting board and a steak knife wrapped in a kitchen towel. I find we are much more likely to eat apples when they are sliced! Don’t cut the apples too far in advance, as they will turn brown quickly!
There are so many great, small cheese producers all over the country. Bring along a different type on each outing and sample what these cheese whizes are creating! You can use the same cutting board and knife as the apples. Don’t forget a Ziploc bag for the leftovers.
Wraps are a great way to eat lots of greens on the go. Put clean, cut-up lettuces into a wrap with your favorite salad add-ins. I like Kalamata olives, feta cheese, and some of the homemade or store-bought hummus. Keep the tomatoes and dressing on the side, so your wrap doesn’t become too soggy.
When packing your picnic, don’t forget to bring a few paper towels and a plastic bag for trash.
Joanna DeVita, executive chef at Léman Manhattan Preparatory School, is an accomplished New York chef. She is the mother of two (ages 5 and 2) and loves nothing more than spending time with them in the outdoors and sharing her love and respect for nature, good ingredients, and the joy of cooking with her family.